Last Sunday we finished the first of the three pastoral epistles with a discussion of 1 Timothy 6. The chapter begins with instructions to Christians who are slaves, that they serve their masters well and thereby witness for Christ. Although the Bible does not prohibit slavery, neither does it encourage it. Instead, we are encouraged to follow Christ in whatever social structure we find ourselves, treating others with love and forgiveness and serving our neighbors with gladness. Fortunately for us, our salvation relies on Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness rather than the quality of our service, for Christ’s standards are too high for us to achieve even when we aspire to.
Next our discussion turned to the pursuit of wealth, which includes an often misquoted Bible passage that may be familiar to you:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
It is not money that is a root of evil, but the love of money that will corrupt you. Abraham, Job, and Lazarus were all rich men who managed to trust in God rather than their own wealth. It is too easy for us to love God’s gifts rather than God Himself. When we pursue worldly wealth for its own sake, we lose our ability to be content with what God has given us and to trust Him to take care of us throughout our lives.
In our society it is easy to be constantly surrounded by advertising, which bombards us with messages of “scarcity, discontent, insecurity, and acquisition” (The Paradox of Generosity, by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson). When we surround ourselves with God’s Word, we hear messages of abundance, overflowing grace, and trust. Then we are able to stop and appreciate what we have, both our material riches and our spiritual riches in Christ. His forgiveness allows us to shed our guilt and enjoy the people and material blessings we have been given.
We also discussed the balance between law, which tells us what we should do, and gospel, which tells us what God has done for us. For the verses below are some difficult law passages:
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:18-19
We talked about the fact that we often do need to be spurred on to do good deeds, while keeping in mind that our deeds are not what saves us. We constantly fight a battle with our sinful nature – first, to do good deeds, and second, to not trust in those good deeds to save us. We read the following passage from Tim Keller:
Believing in Christ does not mean that we are forgiven for our past, get a new start on life, and must simply try harder to live better than we did in the past. If this is your mind-set, you are still putting your faith in yourself. You are your own Savior… Putting our faith in Christ is not about trying harder; it means transferring our trust away from ourselves and resting in him… It is not the quality of the faith itself that saves us; it is what Jesus has done for us. It is easy to assume that being “saved by faith” means that God will now love us because of the depth of our repentance and faith. But that is to once again subtly make ourselves our own Savior rather than Jesus. It is not the amount of our faith but the object of our faith that saves us. (Center Church, Zondervan 2012)
Finally, we closed with the final sentence of 1 Timothy, which says how we are to manage to do all this:
Grace be with you all. 1 Timothy 6:21b
Next Sunday March 3, the adult Bible study hour will be hosted by our guest preacher for the day, Pastor Ralph Schmidt of Orphan Grain Train. The pastoral epistles study will continue on March 10 with a discussion of 2 Timothy 1. To review our recent Pastoral Epistles studies, please use the links below.